Call of Duty fans have been excited across the board about the game franchise's return to its roots, what with it taking place in the era of World War II once again. The series started there and it has taken years to return to that time period. Just like Call of Duty as a franchise has grown older, so has the audience that enjoys playing it and the game industry as a whole. Call of Duty developers Sledgehammer Games said as much in a recent interview, as Creative Director Bret Robbins said, “I think video games are growing up. 15 years ago, there wasn't that expectation that you could tell a mature story.”
It's a trend that has become obvious in recent years. Video games can still offer fun, innocent, and mindless entertainment. The most recent Mario Kart has sold like hot cakes and that's all-ages fun that clearly has the support of kids and adults alike. But then there are other games like Life is Strange that examine certain aspects of humanity very seriously. Probably one of the most serious games to release in recent years was That Dragon, Cancer.
For those not familiar with it, That Dragon,Cancer tells the story of a young boy (Joel) who fought cancer for four years and unfortunately lost. The game was created by Joel's father, won various awards, and received high ratings from critics and players alike. It's clear that video games as a whole really have grown up, and they can be a place for serious discussions of very real tragedies.
It's that reason that led to Sledgehammer making the decision to cover a very touchy subject in their most recent game. Call of Duty: World War II will not be ignoring the Holocaust. The earlier entries in the series avoided the tragic time period. However, this time Sledgehammer thinks the world is ready. While it was one of the worst eras of human history, it's still important to recognize it. We cannot forget this period in history, as we don't want to repeat the same mistakes. Sledgehammer has made it clear that they feel the same way and they want to do it justice by bringing it up in Call of Duty: WWII.
This is obviously an obscenely slippery slope. Yes, we need to recognize the Holocaust. It was a terrible thing and we don't ever want to see something like this happen again. But it has to be treated respectfully. Do I think Sledgehammer is capable of giving the time period the respect that it needs? Of course. Truthfully though, only time and gameplay will tell if they pulled it off or not. It's up to us to imagine what will be shown in the game, since Sledgehammer has only given small hints as to what will be there. Robbins said, “We absolutely show atrocities. It's an unfortunate part of the history, but... you can't tell an authentic, truthful story without going there. So we went there.”
I don't want to make any guesses as to how Sledgehammer will include the Holocaust in Call of Duty: World War II, since I'd rather just see for myself when the game releases. But at the very least I will say this, we all know how serious the subject matter is, we all know the developer wants to be respectful, and let's just hope they pull it off. In return, let's hope the audience, the players, and us can be as respectful as possible while playing and discussing it. We as players need to equally take the subject matter seriously and recognize that this was a difficult choice to include such a thing in a video game. It is possible to include serious and sensitive subjects so long as we react to it in the right ways.